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Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and other Nuclear Facilities















Map of Rokkasho





General Information

The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant is owned and operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL), a private company with most of its shares owned by ten domestic power companies. Apart from the reprocessing plant, JNFL operates a uranium enrichment plant and a low-level radioactive waste disposal center. It also plans to build a MOX (mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides) fuel fabrication plant.

The above facilities are (or will be in the case of the MOX plant) all located in Rokkasho Village, Aomori Prefecture, Japan. See map.


Time Line

1956: Atomic Energy Commission of Japan adopted a policy of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel and extracting plutonium

1967: The Atomic Energy Agency's Long Term Nuclear Program established the nuclear fuel cycle and the fast breeder reactor program as government policy and expressed the hope that civilian reprocessing of spent fuel would be carried out in future. At the time a government reprocessing program was just beginning at Tokai Village.

1980: Japan Nuclear Fuel Service Ltd was established.

1985 (March): Japan Nuclear Fuel Industry Ltd was established.
1985 (April): The Governor of Aomori and the Mayor of Rokkasho accepted a request from the Federation of Electric Power Companies to establish 3 nuclear fuel cycle facilities in Rokkasho: a reprocessing plant, an uranium enrichment plant and a low-level radioactive waste disposal center. A high-level waste storage center was included with the reprocessing plant.

1988: uranium enrichment licence granted and construction of uranium enrichment plant commenced.

1990: low-level radioactive waste licence granted and construction of disposal center commenced.

1992 (March): uranium enrichment plant commenced operation.

1992 (May): construction of high-level radioactive waste storage center commenced.

1992 (July): Japan Nuclear Fuel Service Ltd merges with Japan Nuclear Fuel Industry Ltd to form the current Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.

1992 (December): low-level radioactive waste center commenced operation.

1992 (December): approval for reprocessing granted.

1993: construction of reprocessing plant commenced.

1995: high-level radioactive waste storage center commenced operation.

1998: began accepting spent fuel (stored in spent fuel pools - see below).

2003 (December): reprocessing plant chemical trials completed (radioactive substances not used).

2004 (December): reprocessing plant uranium tests began (using depleted uranium).

2005 (April): site agreement for MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant.

2006 (March): reprocessing plant active tests began using spent fuel (click here for updates on active tests).

2010 (October 28): Began construction of MOX fuel fabrication plant.

2011 (December): Began using new design centrifuges at uranium enrichment plant and commence 10-year process of scaling up plant capacity to 1500 tSWU (JNFL President press conference 24 December 2009.)

2013 (October): reprocessing plant due to complete active tests (the final stage before the plant commences commercial operations). The official completion date was postponed for the 19th time on 19 September 2012. When the plant was first approved it was supposed to be completed by December 1997.

2016 (March): plan to complete construction of MOX fuel fabrication plant. (Delayed from October 2012 and again from June 2015.)

2045: commence operations of second commercial reprocessing plant (This date appears in a METI report dated May 2006. There is no reason to assume that this plant will be sited at Rokkasho.)

2050: Commercialization of fast breeder reactors.


Reprocessing Plant

Capacity
The Rokkasho Reprocssing Plant has a planned reprocessing capacity of 800 tons of spent fuel per year. Around 8 tons of plutonium will be extracted each year from this spent fuel.

Spent Fuel Pools
Construction completed in 1996 and began receiving spent fuel in 1998
3 pools with dimensions of 11 meters x 27 meters x 13 meters deep
Each pool has a capacity of 1,000 tons of spent fuel, giving a total storage capacity of 3,000 tons.
The walls are made of concrete with a stainless steel lining.

High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Center
Until the plant commences operations, this facility is used to store high-level waste generated as a result of reprocessing of spent fuel overseas.

Major Accidents and Incidents
2001, July 10: Leak detected from central spent fuel pool due to faulty welding of the stainless metal lining. (Read article in Nuke Info Tokyo 88 - PDF format 2.9 MB)

2003, February & May: Other leaks from spent fuel pool and adjacent canals detected (Read article in Nuke Info Tokyo 95 - html)

Faulty welding also found in other liquid storage vessels in the reprocessing plant. Discovered that metal fittings embedded in the concrete to reinforce against earthquakes were severed. (Read article in Nuke Info Tokyo 98 - html)

2003, December: Chemical tests identify 307 defects. (Read article in Nuke Info Tokyo 98 - html)


MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant

The MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant will be sited within the precincts of the reprocessing plant. The planned capacity is 130 tons of MOX fuel per year. MOX fuel is made of a mixture of plutonium and uranium oxides. Plutonium is the main source of the energy produced by burning MOX fuel. The uranium that will be used will be the tails (depleted uranium) from the nearby Rokkasho uranium enrichment plant.

JNFL estimates construction of the plant to cost 190 billion yen. (JNFL press release, 16 April 2009)

Click here for CNIC's protest statement regarding the site agreement for MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant.


Uranium Enrichment Plant

"The Uranium Enrichment Plant is operating with a capacity of 1.05 million SWU/year. A centrifuge with performance of 2.5 to 3 times higher than conventional ones is under development. In future, the capacity is planned to be increased by 1.5 million SWU/year, meeting approximately one-third of the enrichment needs of nuclear power plants in Japan."
(quoted from Multilateral approaches to the nuclear fuel cycle, Expert Group Report submitted to the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 22 February 2005, p. 50)

JNFL plans to bring the new centrifuges on line from about 2010 and to increase the capacity to 1.5 million SWU/year within 10 years. (JNFL President's press conference, 30 July 2008)


Low-Level Waste Storage Center

This center is licensed as a final repository for low-level waste generated at nuclear power plants throughout Japan. The disposal method is shallow burial of the waste in drum cans.


Maps of Rokkasho

Map 1: Rokkasho in Japan

Maps 2 & 3: Rokkasho facilities and Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture



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